Colleges and universities need to strengthen support systems to ensure reverse transfer students don’t stall, writes Mandy Zatynski on The Quick and the Ed. Some 14 percent of four-year college students transfer to a two-year college, according to a recent study.
Students who have reverse-transferred report doing so for a multitude of reasons: to save money, to change career goals, to adopt a new learning environment, or in response to life-changing events, such as a newborn baby or a death in the family. The community college campus, with its low-cost degrees and certificates that are almost certainly linked to specific skill sets and jobs, addresses many of those concerns.
But many don’t achieve their goals. About one third of reverse transfers will return to a four-year institution, a third persist in community college and a third drop out, the study found.
Reverse transfer students need help to navigate the obstacles along the way, writes Zatynski.
First and foremost, articulate and streamline transfer processes, so students lose as few credits as possible and are not stuck in courses they’ve already taken—a process known as “swirling” that often leads to dropping or stopping out.
Work closely with reverse transfer students before (and after) they make a decision. Sketch out a long-term plan, with the student’s end goal, so the student can see the impact of their decision to transfer—and likely prolong the time to degree completion. Are there other options?
Connect transfer students with appropriate counseling and mentoring services, particularly if a life-changing event or other obstacle has forced the student to a local, two-year institution. These services will be crucial in helping the students balance life and school.
Help students who want to return to a four-year institution get there. Direct them to general education courses that are transferrable; ensure that they are not wasting time in courses that won’t count later.
Serve the all-important mentoring role, particularly for those students who come to a two-year institution because of the smaller, more personalized learning environment. Providing that contact and relationship can give a student identity on a large college campus.
With growing concerns about high college costs, reverse transferring could be “a logical and practical solution for a growing number of today’s college students,” Zatynski concludes.